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Nine Chinese rescued after week trapped in mine

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BBC's Damian Grammaticas: Miners clung to walls "with belts" above water

Nine miners have been rescued from a flooded coal mine in northern China where 153 people have been trapped for a week, Chinese state TV has said.

TV pictures showed the miners being taken in ambulances to hospitals amid jubilation from rescuers.

Some 3,000 people have been working round the clock to try to pump out the water to reach those trapped.

The Wangjialing mine in Shanxi province flooded after miners broke a wall into an abandoned shaft.

The last sign of life had been the sound of tapping on Friday.

Now officials say there are hopes that more workers can be rescued alive.

Eyes covered

Shortly after midnight on Monday (1400GMT on Sunday), the first survivor was brought to the surface.

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A crowd of people outside the entrance of the mine clapped as the miners were carried out one by one.

The workers were gently placed into waiting ambulances and their eyes covered to prevent damage from the light after spending about a week in darkness.

Their blood pressure and heart rates were said to be normal, the Xinhua news agency reported.

One of the survivors, Li Guoyu, 38, from Henan province in central China, was quoted by the Xinhua news agency as saying the miners had gone without water because they were worried about drinking the dirty liquid flowing in the tunnel.

The BBC's Damian Grammaticas in Beijing says television reports spoke of the survivors attaching themselves by belts to the wall of the mine as waters rushed in.

They hung there for three days until a mine cart drifted by and they got in.

Despite the late hour, thousands of people who were lining the roads burst into applause when the ambulances carrying the survivors passed by.

Thousands of rescuers had been helping to pump water from the mine, which had been under construction. Water levels in the pit had dropped 10 metres (30ft) by Sunday, officials said.

Hopes rose on Friday when rescuers heard what sounded like people banging on pipes from within the mine.

Leaks 'ignored'

Rescuers believe there may be more survivors in as many as nine locations inside the pit.

Members of the Chinese paramilitary police march past a row of ambulances parked outside the mine in Shanxi province

More than 100 people managed to escape the flood last Sunday at the pit, but the rest were trapped.

Earlier this week, a preliminary investigation found that officials had ignored water leaks prior to the accident.

China, which relies heavily on coal to fuel its economy, has some of the most dangerous mines in the world.

Most mining accidents in China are blamed on failures to follow safety rules.

The government has stepped up efforts to improve safety in the mining industry in recent years, by enforcing regulations and taking measures to close unregulated mines.

According to official figures, 2,631 coal miners died in 1,616 mine accidents in China in 2009, down 18% from the previous year.



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